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OtherSpace: 13 for 13

June 26, 2011 Leave a comment

The official 13th anniversary of OtherSpace will be Tuesday night at 8 p.m. Eastern.

However, I’ll be commemorating the occasion for three days, starting Monday and ending Wednesday, with a total of 13 events in honor of 13 years.

The full roster of events, times, and locations can be found on the MUSH at jointhesaga.com 1790 via +calendar.

I’m not sure yet what all will happen. All I know is that I’ll run activities throughout the anniversary celebration, powered by Sunkist, green tea, and Mountain Dew pound cake courtesy of the lovely Catherine. I also know I’ll have a special badge to honor any player who manages to participate in all 13 events (in some form or another – must make allowances for alternate universe characters). I also expect to give away a $25 Amazon.com gift certificate as prize. And I’ll give out copious quantities of Saga Points every time we get a new backer for the Kickstarter project during the anniversary period. AND there’ll be a PDF of all the events produced sometime later in the week.

Looking forward to the mischief and mayhem to come!

The Road to World Conquest: Medic!

June 23, 2011 3 comments

During the past six months, I’d had a few brief episodes of what I thought were just really bad heartburn. The attacks started around bedtime, lasted off and on through the night, and made me utterly miserable. Medications didn’t seem to help. Hot showers, oddly enough, at least alleviated the pain.

But, without fail, these bouts ended by sunrise and I could go on with my life.

Last Tuesday night, Catherine and I had dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse after spending the afternoon in a spinning class at the YMCA. Before bed, I felt another onset of an attack. I took Tums. I took Gas-X. I took repeated hot showers.

The sun came up the next day. The discomfort didn’t relent. By noon, I was on the phone to my general practitioner to arrange an appointment. He was able to see me at 2:30.

During this visit, I received my first ECG. The attendant slapped sticky patches on my chest, arms, and legs, and then hooked wires between them and a computer. The cardiogram spat out seismometer-like readings of my heart. She told me that they were “probably normal.” The doctor took a look and declared it wasn’t just probable, it was definite. My heart was fine. He said my symptoms sounded like a gastro matter and handed me a big box full of Prevacid samples. He ordered me to take one a day. The discomfort should go away soon, he said.

Wednesday night, despite the new medication, was just as miserable as Tuesday. On Thursday, I couldn’t function. I canceled plans to hang out with Catherine and my cousin Donna. When Catherine got home, I insisted that we go to the emergency room at Crestwood Medical Center.

I checked in for chest pains, so I was fast-tracked in the ER. They took another ECG. They drew blood. They grabbed X-rays. And then they tucked me into an exam room bed with a cup that they wanted me to fill with urine, which I managed…eventually.

Around midnight, they informed me and Catherine that I’d be admitted to the hospital overnight for observation and maybe more tests on Friday morning. I was wheeled up to the cardiac ward, to room 238. They gave me a sandwich and some water. When I tried to get to sleep, I couldn’t get comfortable. The nurse pumped morphine into my IV. I felt woozy and out-of-it for about 45 minutes, but the clutching pain still filled my chest. I didn’t sleep much at all. Ultimately, I told the nurse not to bother with the morphine. If it wouldn’t fix the problem, it was just causing new problems. I asked for Tylenol instead.

On Friday morning, my general practitioner showed up, surprised to see me laid out like this. He said the hospital would arrange an ultrasound test for later in the day to figure out the problem. A new shift nurse told me that the ultrasound room would be booked until at least 5.

In the ultrasound room, a kid who looked a lot like Kenneth from 30 Rock covered my abdomen with gel and poked at me with a probe. Soon after I was wheeled back to my room, the nurse reported that the probe revealed that I had a gall stone. I needed my gall bladder surgically removed. All those prior incidents had probably been gall bladder flare-ups that subsided. This latest one could no longer be ignored.

The surgeon came in Friday evening to explain the procedure. It would be done on Saturday afternoon. I wouldn’t be able to eat or drink anything after midnight. I would likely remain in the hospital until Sunday morning.

At this point, I was just glad to have some answers and a plan for what to do next. I was also tremendously grateful that Catherine had joined me in Huntsville for a hiatus just in time for this medical mishap. She took care of Huck and the cat without complaint. She brought my Kindle and my iPhone charger. She kept me company, even though I wasn’t always the most charming companion while I was in pain. She asked everybody lots of awesome lawyerly questions.

I slept fairly well during the night, despite all the efforts to stir me from my slumber for blood tests, blood pressure monitoring, and chest X-rays in advance of the surgery.

Just before I was delivered to the operating room, they told me that I’d probably be relocated to the ortho ward on the third floor, with the surgeon’s other patients. They didn’t need a gastro patient taking up a cardiac bed, after all.

The operating room reminded me of a high school biology classroom. Luckily, I didn’t get to dwell too long on this, as the anesthesiologist gave me this bitter inhalant.

Next thing I remember, I’m in a quiet recovery area full of beds with two nurses on watch. They had me on an oxygen feed. I was soon rolled into room 376, where I was allowed food (I was so very hungry, and once I proved I could ingest ice chips without problem, they let me eat solid food), all the apple juice I could drink, more water, and grapes.

Early on Sunday, I let Catherine know that she could fetch me out of hock. The doctor checked my charts and said it was probably fine for me to begin recovering at home.

I had survived my first full admission to a hospital, ever. I’ve been pretty lucky throughout my life. I’ve only ever needed emergency room visits. The longest stay had been a couple of hours for an outpatient hernia surgery in 1993, but they had immediately sent me home to recover.

Now I was going home without a gall bladder. My abdomen was sore, but I hadn’t felt this good in a long time.

“I’d buy that for a dollar!”

June 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Things that cost more than a $1 contribution to my OtherSpace project on Kickstarter:

* Farmville cash
* Fountain soft drink
* Starbuck’s coffee
* Stripper tips
* Ernest Saves Christmas on pay-per-view
* Movie snacks

Now, granted, the tips are probably helping that stripper through college or maybe feeding her kids. But movie snacks are a ripoff, Ernest films were awful, coffee and Coke rot your teeth and make your hands jittery, and spending gobs of real money to run your fake farm is kind of sad. You should be spending those gobs of money to support a place where you can build your own little star empire for free.

Give just $1 toward this Kickstarter project and you’ll help support ongoing adventures that encourage online socialization with people from all over the world, nurtures creative and imaginative writing skills, and allows for experimentation in cause and effect/actions and consequences.

Support a safe online space for people who wonder “What happens if I push THIS button?”

The Road to World Conquest: Stayin’ Alive

June 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Catherine really doesn’t want me to die.

Now that she’s in Huntsville for a hiatus during the next couple of months, she has seized control of the kitchen.

The refrigerator and pantry are fully stocked with ingredients that she’s using to make three healthy meals a day, keeping me well clear of fast food and soda as much as possible.

She worries that I’ll drop dead if I don’t stay on top of my diet. It’s sweet of her, and I don’t mind going along with it because the woman can cook and I can cope with being spoiled.

So let’s not tell her that dying young doesn’t really run in my family. Don’t mention that Mama Bess made it to her 90s after a lifetime of deep-fried Southern cooking, sugary cakes, and sweet tea by the jug.

Let’s keep quiet about my hard-drinking, cigarette-smoking Grandpa Jack who made a long run of it too.

Best we hold these secrets close to the vest.

Don’t want to ruin a good thing!

The Road to World Conquest: Plan A

June 11, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s time to stop putting off Plan A.

When I was a young writer, I admired Harlan Ellison for this gimmick he devised, wherein he would park himself at a typewriter in the display window of a bookstore and spend the day churning out fiction. Sometimes, he’d draw inspiration from a reader for a title or theme. Then he’d just run with it.

I can’t say I’ve ever been comfortable in the skin of a traditional writer who labors best in solitude. So, when I used to ride to high school on the bus, I’d share outlandish stories that I wrote about my friends. When I worked at Walt Disney World, I turned day-to-day task ledgers into collections of creative missives that a friend of mine says he still has in his Tennessee home decades later. Back in the BBS days, I’d post message board epics on Vic DeGiorgio’s Philosopher’s Stone. At Valencia Community College, I partnered with Jeff Stanford and Liz Sentz to write fiction. After college, I became a journalist, putting out stories with a byline day after day after day for thousands of readers of the St. Petersburg Times. When newspapers started a serious decline and the Internet began its meteoric rise, I turned my attention back to creative writing with an audience. Instead of a school bus, though, it was an original-theme space opera MUD with a focus on collaborative storytelling rather than quests and monster-slaying. I called it OtherSpace.

It’s been online since 1998. Save for the occasional server crash, it’s been consistently running for 13 years – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That’s a lot of history gone by, in game and out. Three U.S. presidents. A madman blowing up a colony world. YouTube. A rift crisis threatening to tear the universe apart. Hulu. Everyone fleeing an invasion force aboard a giant lifeboat called Sanctuary.

OtherSpace outlasted my first marriage. It bridged the gap between my careers as a reporter and computer game designer. It was around before World of Warcraft and EVE Online.

All this time, I’ve rarely had the opportunity to treat OtherSpace as a day job. It’s always been more of a hobby, something done just for fun. It wasn’t practical to call it a job. But, make no mistake, it is work. Some of the best work I’ve done, I think, but it’s still work to pump new energy, new worlds, new characters, new stories into OtherSpace.

Now, I’ve got the chance. Thirteen years later, we’ve got Kickstarter.com at our disposal. So, I’ve kicked off a fundraising project with an eye toward subsidizing the next major arc project on OtherSpace, which I plan to run from Sept. 1-Nov. 30, 2011.

If we land the funding in the next 30 days, I’ll start working on pre-production for the arc – Across the Multiverse. It will be more ambitious than any that has gone before on OtherSpace, through major events, news articles, and short stories. And I’ll work it like a full-time job during that period, intent on giving every participant a chance to shine and experience an epic adventure that might make their characters into the legends that future players will talk about.

I think the time and the circumstances are ripe to get the support necessary to make this happen.

So, help spread the word and make sure OtherSpace: Across the Multiverse meets that 30-day goal!

The Road to World Conquest: Dogs and Cats, Living Together

June 7, 2011 1 comment

I may have hit on the secret of Huck and Sienna safely – and peacefully – cohabitating.

For the past couple of weeks, ever since the third “litter bombing,” when Huck flipped the cat’s litter box and spread the contents all over the kitchen and living room floor, I started an experiment. The experiment began with a premise: It’s not just anxious behavior, it’s personal. Sienna and Huck never really got along, but until recently they had a “mediator,” for lack of a better word, in Elsa – Sienna’s sister, who I had to let go after she suffered a seizure that left her in a coma.

Elsa loved Huck. They got along great. Sienna could cope with that. She just lurked behind the couch and let her sister handle the big polar bear dog.

Now that Elsa was gone, Sienna no longer had that barrier and Huck wanted a playmate. That wasn’t a role Sienna could fill.

So, Sienna got in the habit of occasionally relieving herself on the couch where Huck liked to sleep. My theory: Huck decided to wreck her litter box in what might equate to “dog revenge.” He just didn’t realize that the revenge affected me far more than it did Sienna.

It occurred to me that maybe I was just anthropomorphizing the animals just a little. Still, I figured, what the hell? Experiment time.

During the day, I segregated them. I left Sienna and her litter box in the side of the apartment with the bedroom, the bathroom, and an open door to the laundry room where she could reach her food. Huck got the living room, kitchen, and the stairwell leading down to the front door.

And, what do you know: Peace in our time!

The couch hasn’t been soiled lately. Huck has stopped tearing things up. They seem to get along most of the time now when I get home and open the doors, allowing them to mingle again.

Apparently, they just needed their own space.

Whatever works!